Leaving Norfolk on the 5th of May we steamed north over some interesting looking seamounts trolling through out the day and steaming through the night. The weather was glamour, so it was very pleasant trip. We reached the Gemini Sea mounts, which are a group of shallow hills at the southern end of the Vanuatu chain of islands. On the chart everything looked good and as soon as we arrived we spotted birds and schools of yellow fin busting the surface. After catching a few tuna and the odd chop off, we ventured to deeper water looking for a marlin. But at the end of the day, we were all disappointed in the day’s marlin fishing efforts-all zip!
He next day we arrived at the famed Erramango Sea mounts, and it was today that I decided it was hot enough to pack away my wet weather gear and warm clothing! Fishing just west of the seamounts on a 400meter hill we came across some bait and let go 2 blue’s from 3 bites, having just arrived, I thought this will do me! The next couple of days proved fruitless as we continued fishing our way north past Efate and Malekula Islands to another shallow reef known as the Sabine shoal. The shoal is situated just west of Santo. The day fishing here had an enormous mortality rate on our favorite lures due to local Wahoo population. However 2 bites from marlin saw us release a 400lber. This fish bit just off the edge of the reef in about 350meters of water and tailed back up into the shallows, and when we did eventually release the fish we were in 12 meters and could see reef fish swimming about under the boat!!
Our next spot to explore was Santo and the Wusi seamount. We arrived mid morning in glassed out conditions, and although I had fished here before I was still awe struck by the huge mountains and rugged jungle that the western side of the island has. We fished 2 days here for zip before heading north and looking for greener pastures. Around the top of Santo and down the eastern side of the island we went 2 from 3 bites on blues 300 to 350lbs. But by this stage my guests were keen to get ashore! So heading south we fished a day out from Port villa and released 2 fish from 2 bites. The bigger of the 2 fish was maybe a little shy of 750lbs, and well worth the wait, as it certainly put smiles on every ones faces!
We cleared customs on the afternoon of the 15th of May, having spent 10 days at sea there was no way of keeping the boys from going ashore tonight! Once arriving in Vanuatu we fished 7 days for 7 blues, which aint half bad, not forgetting the 750lber!
The following week, the boys and local expat Terry Hannam fished our way south to Noumea, of the 2 days fishing and traveling we got in, we released 2 more blues and landed 2 yellow fin in the 60kg bracket. On the way down, the first blue was the biggest I have seen….We release most of our marlin that we catch, so we weren’t prepared with the gaffs when this animal climbed on. At first we all thought it was a Wahoo, as it didn’t take much line and even swam back toward the boat. It then decided that it had had enough and the usual blue marlin acrobats followed. At this stage we knew it was a nice one, but not anywhere as big as when it came clean out of the water behind the boat! Deano was the first to say, “we got to gaff that!” so the decision was made and the boys rushed to load up the gaffs as we stayed close on the fish’s tail with the leader just out of range. Once we were ready, the fish decided to distance itself from us doing some more jumps and blistering runs. The fish then began to dive, and dive, and dive. Now, I was cursing to myself as to why we hadn’t had the gaffs ready in the first place, or why the hell hadn’t we just released the fish anyway. So, Terry applied more pressure and eventually we turned the fish and had it swimming along side the boat, or so we thought! As soon as Greg got a wrap on the leader, the fish changed direction and in a heart beat bit clean through the 900lb extra hard leader, and just to add insult to injury one final jump had the fish horizontal at eye level…. Big fish! Was about all we could say. I have to say that it was disappointing to have had lost this fish, but also an absolute privilege to have witnessed it and have it swim away unscathed. As for the size, all I can say is that it was big enough to gaff.
After returning to Villa, we prepared our selves to fish the Up coming Vanuatu Marlin Classic, (VMC) run by local Troy Neal. The event has an interesting take where over the 7 days of fishing, a team is permitted to fish 3 days, therefore allowing the charter boats to fish 2 teams over the tournament. Ultimate Lady fished 2 teams made up of Gisborne and local anglers, and as usual for any tournament, the weather gods weren’t favorable. The tournament is strictly tag and release and the points are award for fish caught on 80lb to 30lb, with the tagging of a marlin on 30lb getting the most points. Due to the weather and the 20 tonnes of fuel we had bunkered the previous week, we decided against fishing 30lb, especially after seeing 2 fish over 700lbs the previous week.
On the fist day we went 1 from 2 bites, and the first fish, should have been on 30lb, as it was a striped marlin! of around 280lbs, the second was a 400lb blue that after a series of jumps through the hook. We lead the tournament right up until, Ultimate Lady “B” caught a blue a few days later. Catching this blue was perhaps the most fun I have had fishing for them. A decent sized fish of 600lbs, that we raised first on my teaser to have it bite and chase the lure right up beside the boat, before returning and scaring the living daylights out of the angler who was holding the pitch bait rod. The fish made several attempts to eat the bait before engulfing the left rigger with an awesome going away bite. We got back on the fish quickly with the boat full steam in reverse. The fish put on a spectacular display right behind the boat jumping from side to side with its entire body out of the water. Our angler Steve Badman did a good job of keeping tight on the blue and getting the leader within range for the boys to wire and tag the fish. The fish was caught on 50lb, therefore putting UL team B in front of team A. However the next day was our day off and another local boat released a small blue on 30lb to take the tournament. Over all, there was a few small fish caught on 30lb and some much bigger ones lost. The big yellow fin also made an appearance, with fish in the 70kg weighed. We landed one tuna caught on 80lb that pulled the scales down to 72.5kg.
So, in the couple of weeks fishing, we have caught 3 yellow fin over 65kg, 2 blue’s over 700lbs, and a bunch more between 250 and 600lbs and jumped off a few more mid sized fish….I think its conclusive. I’m going to be happy to call Port Villa home!